I was shocked to read that Alex Foster of all people seems to fear paperless committees. In essence I'm quite disappointed how little has changed since I worked on the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment's 'Leapfrog to the Information Age Initiative' (1999). Has it really been 10 years since we published that?
One of the reasons that Alex gives is that 'many of the councillors are not very happy with IT' which I honestly cannot believe is still an issue. Ten years ago when we were looking at the issue we were aware that there was a great lack of IT knowledge for a knowledge based economy. These days there is a lot less knowledge required by most end users to be fully functional than 10 years ago, yet we still have the argument that councillors aren't happy with IT.
What are they not happy about? Screens are a lot more easily read now than before. Even if a councillor has difficulty with a screen on his laptop as with the guys I work with, at their permanent work station a docking port and larger screen are readily available.
Alex also says that 'the email system isn't too good' well in this day and age that is a ridiculous state of affairs and something that needs to be resolved with either an improved server or a better system put into place. I know that when I return to my private sector desk in a couple of hours time and open my inbox that there will be so much data and information pushed into my inbox first thing when I log on; more indeed than I suspect a councillor will have to get on a daily basis. It doesn't hinder my day I'll be off and running within a minute of opening outlook.
The final argument may have some merit 'laptops for everyone will cost a small fortune'. Yes the initial capital investment is required in the technology. Laptops, docking stations, screens for permanent stations etc. but it can be phased in. First it starts with those that have mobile work positions, not everyone in our office has a laptop. Those that attend regular meetings, work from different locations, mix home working with visits to the office, these are the people with laptops. Must of the people doing the actual work who don't move around much still have desktop computers on their desks, these are the people less likely to attend any sort of 'committee' meeting. Walking the corridors you are often likely to walk past a co-worker carrying their laptop to some meeting room or other. Indeed sitting next to the hot desk stations I often see two colleagues from close but not adjacent desks move over to the space for an impromptu meeting to hash out a particular issue.
Maybe it is because I work in a global environment and not located in one office that working paperlessly seems to be a natural progression. My direct line manager is actually based in Ireland, the client I work for in New York State, the head office of my company is in Florida and I work with 12 sites globally. We are often having conference call meetings, often with shared worktop technology to discuss issues. Communication takes place by phone, messenger and email I don't see much paper in my day to day working, and I don't need it.
The IAI said that one of the barriers to moving with technology was merely a fear of change, but that is not a good enough reason to object to going paperless. The world is largely moving to a paperless way of working out of necessity due to the changing structure of how things work. It may seem easier to keep things as they are, but they are not necessarily best practice. Besides when I am leading a call a little prompt by IM of a point I have missed is often a good way to seamlessly move on to another topic. So there's plenty of reasons that I support Cllr Kristian Smith and West Lindsey DC's bold steps towards paperless committees.